Freak Out!

Freak Out!

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.   Steve Jobs

I spend my days with teenagers, lots of teenagers. When sickness settles in the area I am sure to be exposed.  Sometimes you get lucky and avoid all the nastiness and other times it just can’t be avoided.  I’ve been home from work for a couple of days so that tells you where my luck ran out.  I’m a little stir crazy with time to think, and this project, the deconstruction of my life in order to reassemble it into something new has its moments.  Times of pure excitement and energy to move forward and other less enticing periods of panic and fear.  I’ve been here before, fearful of change,  because what if the outcome is worse than the current status?  I know there are people out there that think I’m crazy for wanting to live in a tiny house, and there are days that I believe them.  In those quiet spaces where I can hear myself think, the voice that resides in my comfort zone gets loud and sounds something like this…

“You’ll hate living in a small space.”

“This is a crazy idea.”

“What a stupid waste of time and money.”

“You’re not smart enough or strong enough to pull this off.”

“What if this is a giant disaster and mistake.”

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The sentry that has guarded my door for years gives me courage.

This grand step into a tiny house is not something being forced upon me. I could easily continue on with life as I know it, making safe, well-traveled adjustments as needed.  There are a lot of moving pieces designing this future lifestyle, the actual house sometimes seems the most straightforward.  When the voice of fear is taking over my head, I take a deep Ujjayi ocean breath and think about what is good.

  1. The number of discarded items is growing steadily, over 1200 items so far and I don’t miss any of them.
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My entire laundry room and garage is starting to look like this…   big “FREEcyle”  sale in the spring!

2.   I’m taking better care of myself striving for greater mental and physical stamina.

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YUM.

3.  My emotions are open to whatever they need to be.

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Happy Girl.
  1. I have moments of that “peace that passes all understanding” which indicates to me that I am spiritually on the right track.
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A higher power leads the way.

I think the fear is attached to the subtle hints of the spring that is coming soon…a little more light everyday, much friendlier winter temperatures and lots of birdsong.  Spring will also bring action.

1.The purchase of a trailer…I haven’t figured that one out yet, but have done my research and am narrowing it down.  Still have a couple of local options to explore.

2. Quotes on a material list … I sorta have one of those.

3.   Decisions on windows and front door so framing details can be worked out.

4.  Figuring out my “power budget” so I can price out a solar system.

4.  The organization of the build site …

AKKK … the list goes on and on,  opening the door wide for doubt. I haven’t invested much in the way of money yet.

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Plans and resources
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Love these!

The greatest investment has come in the countless hours going into research and design. I’ve taped an outline of the house inside my house and am feeling out the movement of 286 sqft … and loving the design challenges!  I doodled the featured photo while on a beach in Mexico years ago, I must have needed reminders back then as well.  Fear is a giant brick wall slowing down everything in my path. Time to climb over the fear as the Trek to Tiny gains altitude.

Remember friends … kindness begins at home!

Hillary D.

Downward Dog with Dogs

Downward Dog with Dogs

If you are reading this from outside of Northern Idaho, then there is something you should know about one of America’s “Top Ten Small Towns” …. we have WINTER.  Sometimes it looks like this …

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Winter Snow and Sunshine

 

And sometimes it looks like this …

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Fun to follow when this freezes over.

The winter rain that comes after large amounts of snowfall creates one big sloppy, frozen, snow berm bound, school cancelled landscape.  I actually don’t mind the shoveling.  When I lived on acreage in the country I would shovel paths into the woods. This winter I’ve dug out over and over my car, the truck, the deck, the walks and even shoveled  a racetrack for Vita to express her extroverted puppiness.

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Dog Track

It only took one wrong toss of water laden snow to send a message to the left lower back that all is not well.  Something tweaked, not serious but relentlessly annoying.  This recent twist has brought me to my yoga mat multiple times throughout the day as I did not quite feel ready for the hot yoga room.  I am learning be a better listener when my body speaks, I am learning how to gently unlock the tension in my life and I am learning how to downward dog with dogs.

Vita sees me hit the mat and assumes “floor time = playtime” and immediately pounces into the Sun Salutation.  She sits on my legs while I Cat/Cow and the restorative Child’s Pose is a clear signal to lick my face and nibble on my hair.  The pinnacle of fun is Downward Facing Dog where the two dogs immediately see a perfect tent for wrestling under.

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Post-yoga nap.

Today I will venture into a hot yoga class and work the muscles a little deeper and as always it will be an invigorating, peaceful experience and I will miss my furry yoga buddies when I Down Dog.

Namaste.

Hillary D.

Dishwater Tears

Dishwater Tears

This winter of snowdrifts and deep cold has been a blessing.  Like all big winter years I’ve had some challenges, my furnace became stingy with heat output and the hot water heater took note and is withholding hot water.   I even climbed up in to a very awkward attic space to look at the furnace (thank you yoga!) thinking there might be an obvious part lying on the attic insulation.  There wasn’t,  and if there was I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do next, but it was an adventure!  I have no idea how that furnace will someday be replaced with its given location.

These normal home owner issues always bring my head back to the tiny house, and the potential issues that water and heat might face.  The extra time indoors has allowed me to research and plan. It reminds me of pre-trip planning when I’m traveling somewhere new, it’s part of the journey and can save you many headaches before arriving to the destination.  If I had jumped right into building the plans I had purchased I wouldn’t have the redesign that better suits me.

I spent my Friday night tackling the craft cupboard, which holds many clues that we were a former home schooling family.  How wonderful that I work for a school that has two amazing art classrooms, a pottery room AND a Makerspace…I know exactly where all these cast-off art supplies can be put to good use.

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Piles of extra art supplies

Doing dishes over winter break started to get under my skin.  The dishwasher seemed to be endlessly full as well as the sink and the dish drainer … we have too many dishes. I emptied all the cupboards and started a new discard corner in my daughters empty room.  My kids will each receive a box of really pretty items when it comes time to set up their own living space.

I won’t have a dishwasher in the tiny house, so after bringing down the sheer number of dishes we use I decided to go on a dishwasher ban to see how washing dishes by hand day in and day out sits with me.   I ask Alexa to play some music, light a candle on the windowsill, and fill the sink with hot soapy water (when the hot water heater is feeling generous).  Turning this daily chore into an opportunity to think has turned doing dishes into therapeutic motion, there are days the dishwater mixes with tears.

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My therapy office.

I’ll be just fine without the modern dishwasher, both my dishes and my emotions will get a good scrubbing.  I will however need a good supply of this awesome product as my hands take the brunt of cold and hot.

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The best hand cream ever!

Thanks for all the great support and feedback as I share this trek, looking forward to posting my first construction photos in the summer sun.

Be Well Friends.

Hillary D.

Honor the Ending & the Beginning

Honor the Ending & the Beginning

Honor the Ending – The journey of a year is drawing to a close. Honor the lessons you’ve learned, and the people who helped you learn them. Honor the journey your soul mapped out for you.  Trust all the places you’ve been.

Honor the Beginning – Beginnings hold the promise of new lessons to be learned, new territory to be explored, and old lessons to be recalled, practiced, and appreciated. Beginnings  hold ambiguity, promise, fear, and hope.

Melody Beattie – Journey to the Heart

2016 has come to a close and 2017 has dawned with a full on blizzard. It feels good to be hunkered down with a cup of hot coffee in a quiet house with nowhere to be, the perfect opportunity to reflect and think, to honor the ending and the beginning.

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2016 Ending in Brilliant Sunlight

The 2016 journey has never been boring, it was full of insight and brought a focused energy to the new year.  Laughter, tears, hope and faith lived together in the perfect harmony they were meant to have.  My family, friends, coworkers, students, furry companions, community and our nation taught me infinite lessons.  Through the beauty of compassion, generosity, and forgiveness and through the uglier sides of anger, bitterness, and pride the lessons came and I am a better human for all of them.

I look forward to this up and coming year, the unfamiliar territory ahead contains both excitement and healthy fear.

Tiny House 2017

My tiny house model sits on a top bookshelf in direct view of my favorite seat. I look and look and look at that future life I wish to live and the model allows me to walk through the space whenever I desire.  I had an electric moment this week when I realized that the floor plan is WRONG, that is not how I move through my life.  I recognized this because I’ve been paying close attention to my rhythms and movement at home.  By taking a moment to acknowledge the fact that I really only use a couple of feet of counter space to prepare the meals I love to cook, or that I appreciate a cozy place to nap, read or watch people build tiny houses on YouTube.

My current plans are beautiful, and the house has the vibe I like, but it is not my house.  So I started all over, better prepared to incorporate design that is going to be perfect for me. I am breaking free of the “resale” mentality and embracing the process of creating the house that will truly house me.  This will be one of many lessons in resiliency in taking a step back to make better forward progress.

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2017 Bringing in the New Year with a shovel.

The snow continues and the wind is strong, creating new blizzards with each gust.  I am out in the storm, along with an old woman bundled and walking a dog and some kids squealing down the street.  You either deeply resent this cold season or you love it … I love it.  Many years ago I stood at the top of the Northwoods Express (elevation 11,500) on Vail Mountain. We had caught the last chair before  they shut down the lift due to the wind and heavy snow.  I happened to be perfectly dressed that day, my hands were warm, my feet were dry, my goggles were clear and my body felt good.  It allowed me to revel in the power of the storm while whooping and hollering as we had the ski hill to ourselves with fresh Colorado powder falling fast.

On this first day of 2017 as the Idaho snow envelops me I feel that same awe and excitement of being in the storm … honoring the beginning.

May you all rock your 2017!

Hillary D.

 

Simple Is A Feeling

Simple Is A Feeling

It is the day after Christmas and I feel content.  My family cooked together, watched Bob Ross paint a winter scene on Netflix (sounds boring but we laughed and laughed and were amazed) stood around a fire in the snow with the dogs, listened to music, attended a candlelit solstice yoga class at Sandpoint Hot Yoga , walked, worked a puzzle, shared meals with friends and enjoyed each others company.  It was a simple and beautiful winter scene.

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Stunning snow covered Lake Pend Oreille;

I am grateful to my friends and family that understood that both my kids and myself don’t need much.  Gift cards, a paid month at the gym, a massage, books, Christmas money and music were some of the thoughtful gifts received.  Nothing needs to be exchanged, and we do not need to find closet space to house a giant haul of gifts. With all the recent purging it feels exactly right.

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A gift of tiny succulents, perfect for a tiny house!

Occasionally here in North Idaho we will experience earthquakes, nothing terribly devastating, just enough of the ground shaking to look at one another and say “Did you feel that?”  It catches your attention, provokes some conversation and we move on with the day.  This week while I was finishing another collection of items for the donations pile, I stopped and had that same earthquake sort of moment.  Suddenly I thought, “I can feel it.”, the house actually FEELS lighter.  The realization stopped my busyness and I thought … this is it …. this is what simplicity feels like.  The house is gaining space, some of it hidden in drawers and behind closet doors, but the open space is there and I can sense it.

I am also noticing that since the house is already free of much clutter, keeping it that way takes very little of my time.  It’s nice to come home and have a tidy space to greet me.  This week my kitchen will receive some attention,  digging into the corners of the cupboards, pantry and fridge. My guy has a habit of dating jar lids when he opens them, which at first I thought was rather OCD, but now I know exactly how long that favorite salad dressing has been sitting on the shelf and really should be tossed!  Sounds like the perfect detox for the new year.

May your season also be filled with simplicity,  the people you love, and the miracles that surround us every day.

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With 2017 right around the corner, pour love and light into your world …

Hillary D.

The Games We Play

The Games We Play

During the cold, dark, short days of winter the puzzles come out, it’s how I avoid the temptation to slip into sleep before 7 o’clock every night because it’s been dark for hours already.  The title of the latest winter puzzle is “The Games We Play”,  and it’s full of nostalgia as I have always loved board games.  This however is not a particularly cozy, happy post.

As I searched for the spinner to High Ho Cheerio, I was listening to the television when a story about the White Helmets of Syria came on.  These are volunteers who dig out survivors after a brutal bombing has occurred. They look for legs or fingers or any other visible body part and begin to frantically dig away at the rubble with bare hands, and time is of the essence to save victims from suffocation.  My Hi Ho Cheerio search became irrelevant as I watched the images come across the screen of the horror that is Aleppo.  I have no reference of suffering at that level and felt overwhelmed to be sitting in a safe and warm home lit softly by Christmas lights, with plenty of food, clean water and my family.

 

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Warm on a cold winter night.

It is always a worthwhile exercise to connect with the suffering of others, it keeps our humanity in check. Life often hangs by a fragile thread and while I cannot change the reality of those living in Aleppo, I CAN be mindful of the energy I put out in to the world.

Today was my test. It was just ONE OF THOSE DAYS.

The kicker was dropping off a mass mailing of report cards (mass mailings tend to provoke tension from the onset), only to have the postal lady call as I was three blocks away that I needed to return because all the envelopes were 20 to 40 cents short on postage. If there hadn’t been half the population of the county waiting in line when I returned I might have had a memorable moment in the post office.  I return to the school, reweigh the envelopes (which the majority were under the 1 ounce limit…thank you very much) and headed home.  My sons friends were listening to their music that tends to set my teeth on edge and sitting at the puzzle.  I looked at their impressive progress and said, “Whatever you do, DO NOT FINISH THE PUZZLE, that is the best part!”  Realizing I need to get a grip I retreated to a quiet room.

I remind myself that my “bad” day is nothing, nothing other than an inconvenience. So I say a small simple prayer for those who are fighting … for Aleppo, for cancer, for loneliness and homelessness, and hunger …  I make my family a delicious vegetable red curry and I feel so, so terribly blessed.

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Peace and Love,

Hillary D.

 

 

The Scoop on Poop

The Scoop on Poop

A desire to be able to live off the grid without any infrastructure,  brings up a number of logistics that need to be worked out, one of the biggest being water use. Traditional  toilets use an average of 1.5 gallons per flush which has me thinking.  I will not be on a well or city water hookups and will have somewhere around 40 gallons of water in a holding tank, enough for daily use of cooking and dishes and a shower.  I am now practicing the art of a quick shower and have the health club, yoga studio, school or Bill’s primary residence when the necessity for a long hot shower should arise.  If I am flushing a toilet 3 or 4 times a day … that makes filling the holding tank a real and constant chore.

Bathrooms can often be an interesting adventure. The facilities in India were a problem for me, I have bad knees and it was typically an urgent visit!  I never did figure out how the women wrapped in saris were able to gracefully navigate this option.

 

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Troublesome for bad knees!

 

I had close friends who lived off grid and had an outhouse. It was nice to sit there looking out the screen door into the woods. However,  I never made the walk in January,  in the dark,  in a snowstorm. I love to camp, but pit toilets are not my favorite pit stops.

 

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No one loves these.

I’ve never quite understood the desire for a bathroom that rivals the size of a small bedroom.  I’m just not one who has the need to luxuriate for long periods of time in the bathroom. I have a very small master bath now and it suits me just fine, I get in and get out and get on with the day.  My tiny house bathroom will have a shower, a sink and after much research … a composting toilet.

There is a surprising amount of information and talk out there regarding composting toilets.  The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins is one of the more popular books educating interested off-grid, eco-minded folks on how to install, use and recycle the waste from a composting toilet.

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If the thought of human manure makes you squeamish, trust me, I’m right there with you.  There is a learning curve associated with any sustainable living and this is one of them.  I have read many, many other blogs of tiny house people who are using composting toilets and they all swear that they are easy to use, friendlier to empty than a black water tank, and most importantly … don’t smell.

Some tiny house occupants choose the five gallon bucket/sawdust method while others prefer a Nature’s Head or the Separette  composting toilet.  The manufactured toilets separate the urine from the solids which controls the awful sewage smell that no one wants to scent their house with, especially a tiny house.  The urine is diluted with water and can be used to water the yard (we’ve probably all peed outdoors at some point in our life!) the solids are mixed with peat moss, agitated and have a fan that constantly runs drying things out and venting to the outdoors.

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thi-cats-images-02_grande_4bedd982-b2b3-4187-bd39-4e2beb552c81_grande  compost_toilet


I can’t say I’m totally sold on this method of waste disposal, but I’ve never tried it either so really I’m just fearful of what is unfamiliar.  With three kids, I’ve changed hundreds of unpleasant diapers and survived those years without lingering trauma as well as digging cat holes in the backcountry, so I am confident it will all work out.  Not to mention, there are PLENTY of modern facilities available everywhere for a traditional bathroom visit.

So that is the scoop on poop.

Keep on trekking … and SMILE!

Hillary D.

Tin Can Tourist

Tin Can Tourist

Once I got past the sale of the family home, (which I managed without hiring a realtor) and disposed of all the leftover stuff, summer rolled in.  Growing up in Colorado birthed a never-ending love of the mountains. The quiet, pristine scenery fills me in so many ways and I am surrounded by beauty at every turn here in the Northwest.  I love my lightweight, 2 man tent and have found the RV scene a curious one whenever I am in a campground.

 

My son and I took a spectacular weeklong backpacking trip into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and at the end of the trip I had rented a yurt in the state park. Walking out of the wilderness into the RV city was overwhelming, one family actually brought a U-Haul full of stuff deemed necessary for camping.  People rolled out carpets, strung lights around their sites, hung their favorite football team flag and there was every toy imaginable on display. One campsite had a chalkboard menu of their planned gourmet dinner, which spiked our hiker hunger.  We found humor in the campground after spending days of not seeing other people in places like this…

 

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Mason taking in the beauty of the Eagle Cap Wilderness

 

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A 9 mile ascent brought us to Ice Lake

 

 

As the idea of building a tiny house was forming, I started to think that a small camper might actually be a great addition for the travel that the house was going to afford me. A tour of the National Parks is high on the list of wanderlust.

 

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What a great road trip!

 

I don’t need anything to large or obnoxious, but a roof that would keep me dry for extended trips started to resonate. If you’ve ever camped in the rain you understand, and it rains in the Northwest …frequently.  Instead of a yurt at the end of a backcountry adventure, there would be a small camper, (my son has voiced his concern about using a microwave on camping trips, I assure him that microwaves and TV are not on the camping agenda!)

I fell into a sweet deal on a sweet truck. A one owner 1997 Ford that was loved, garaged, fully loaded with a tow package and low miles …

 

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My 20 year old truck!

 

Then my boss at the school decided to sell her family camper as she no longer had a truck to tow it with….the universe was aligning!  I jumped on the opportunity and landed another great deal on the perfect little camper. At 16 feet it would be easy to tow and was just enough space to get out of the weather if needed.

 

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My National Park travel trailer.

 

My boss did honestly reveal that the back window had a small leak.  I knew enough to know water & campers were not good friends.  Upon further inspection I found this…

 

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Water = Rot

 

And so the restoration began and led to this …

 

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Let the demolition begin.

 

Bill took on rebuilding the back end while I ripped up all the flooring, painted the interior, made new box cushions and curtains, butyl taped all the windows, and installed new J-rail.  Needless to say the learning curve regarding travel trailers was substantial and as the deconstruction began I knew that this was great for camping but for full-time living I wanted the solid construction of a tiny home (so many staples hold these together!)

 

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My workshop

 

I spent a lot of time in this tight, cozy space and began to understand more of what living in a tiny house might feel like.  At the end of a work day I would sit at the table and make notes and think about the first trip I would take in my little gem.

Bill and I set a deadline for the camper restoration with a trip to Lolo Hot Springs where his band was playing.  Like most construction efforts the project was bigger and would take longer than we thought and after a long trying day to make it doable, we ended up in a tent for the trip.  It was late September and the first night brought a hard frost and VERY cold sleeping conditions, making the travel trailer all the more attractive.

Come spring I hope to get the trailer project finished (we are close!) so that I can focus on the tiny house build and use the camper to get out of town and decompress when the build hits roadblocks or fatigue…and it will.  The little camper will also serve as overflow space for those times when I may need to house more than 4 or 5 people I love, or the kids want to stay up late making noise.

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Renovated interior…looking forward to sipping coffee, writing and seeing new places.

 

Thanks for following The Trek to Tiny, and until next time Be Kind, Life Is Short …

Hillary D.